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MUNPlanet: Lamprini, how would you introduce yourself to the MUN community?
I would probably say that I am a passionate MUNer who has studied in different places around the world and a person that loves traveling and experiencing! I started out by doing my Bachelor’s at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, on International and European Studies and then moved on to do my Master’s at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, on International Security & Law, where I am at the moment. In between, I visited the London School of Economics and Sabanci University for several short term courses. I started doing MUNs in 2009, which is quite late (during my third year of bachelor studies). Taking it from there, I did about 21 or 22 MUNs in total (lost the count), in all sorts of roles: delegate, chair, and organizer.
MUNPlanet: Which were the decisive factors that led you to your first MUN and how did your MUN career develop?
To be completely honest, I started MUNs for completely personal reasons. I had an unfortunate event in my life that pushed me to get an experience abroad and the first thing that I thought of was attending an MUN. My previous University, University of Macedonia and its ThessISMUN have a long tradition of about 14 proud years of organization and are now the largest MUN in the Balkan peninsula. That is how I got to know what an MUN was in the first place and I decided to start attending conferences, with my first one being in Oxford (OxiMUN)!
After that, of course, I got addicted to them. I was a delegate for several times and then started the “chairing” part. My first chairing experience was in BIMUN, Belgrade 2011, at the Human Rights Council, where I met you Marko, and many other people that I now consider my friends. I reached the organizing part in 2011 and 2012 and I am now a member of the ThessISMUN Association, as well as an alumna of the RhodesMRC.
MUNPlanet: What are the things that MUN has taught you?
MUNs taught me firstly how to collaborate. Showing off your knowledge is a mistake that unfortunately a lot of Greek students are making, along with missing the whole point of cooperation. Because this is what it is all about in the end, to learn how to cooperate and try to be as convincing as possible to reassure the interests of the country that you are representing. This is really important, especially in the real UN: all diplomats need to be able to show signs of cooperation in order to protect the needs and interests of the country they are representing, which is why I can say that they introduce you to the world of diplomacy.
From the very beginning of attending MUNs, I knew that I wanted to see how the real UN works. I wasn’t really sure whether I wanted to work permanently for the UN, but I really wanted to see how it looked like. The whole idea of being formal and of speaking in a diplomatic manner seemed fascinating to me. So in that sense, yes, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to see what the UN and the real negotiation looked like. I am happy I managed to do that!
MUNs helped me a lot I must say, especially in my professional career. They gave me internships and took away my fear of speaking in public, something that I was always scared of! I guess it is thanks to them that I am now standing on where I am now.
United Nations has been a great school for me, by all means. I met a lot of interesting people, I saw and learned a lot of things about how the organization functions and I got the chance to represent my country in the 1st Committee of the General Assembly, as well as in the European Union negotiations! For me this was a fascinating experience, but on the other hand, speaking of the negative sides of it, I saw that multilateralism can be quite disheartening sometimes: the decision process is extremely slow and when decisions are finally made, they are not very “ground breaking” in the sense that they do not end up making a lot of changes and each and every state can interpret a resolution in a way that suits them best by simple “twisting” the meaning of words.
As to my MUN experience, I can say that it was very relevant! When I first entered an official session, I didn’t see many differences, especially in the debating process. The rules of procedure were the same, the debates were quite similar, but the only thing that differed as I mentioned above was that the negotiation process was slow and with not many results.
It is really so! MUNs consist of a practical education for the real United Nations. And when MUNers see the real UN debates, they all figure out in the end: “Hey! We did that in BIMUN! There’s not that much different after all!”
MUNPlanet: In the past ten years, the number of MUNs has increased manifold. How do you see the future of MUNs as a concept, and can they really serve as a platform for change and become a transformative force in this interdependent world ?
I am not quite sure on that. To be honest, I am afraid that new MUNs are a bit associated with “party” lifestyle, instead of being focused on being a platform for education. By being myself, a dedicated MUNer, I have seen that MUNs are radically changing and that they are starting to accumulate the Erasmus philosophy (and I was never a fan of Erasmus, to be honest). It is nice to have fun and beers, but not all the time!
There are MUNs, though, that maintain their seriousness and their educative manner, such as BIMUN (Belgrade) and ThessISMUN, which are by far the best MUNs I have attended throughout my whole “MUN career”.
Hmm… Good question! I must say that I am a fan of the idea around which the United Nations was created: to create a world of multilateralism and of international cooperation with the purpose of achieving goals that are mutual to many states.
I am not a fan, though, of the results of the UN: we have seen that, after the Cold War, the number of the Security Council resolutions has decreased dramatically. We have also seen that there are a lot of states that, in order to pursue their own interests, veto resolutions, or simply do not back them up at all – or even skip implementing them when they are passed.
I would like the institutionalism to be a reality. Reality, though, brings us sadly back to realism, where each and every state fights for its own survival at all costs, even by using international institutions like the United Nations. There are many states that are using the United Nations to protect their interests. I will bring the example of the United States and Iran (as it is something that I experienced in the 1st Committee of the General Assembly): for the United States, Iran is right now a major nuclear threat. In that sense, the US is trying to use the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the United Nations in order to condemn Iran on an international level and to try to secure itself (reflecting in that way the security dilemma works).
In the end, as much as institutionalism sounds like a very nice idea – it is not very much so implemented in practice, at least in my own point of view!
I can surely say that Denmark is not very active when it comes to MUNs. There is an MUN club at the University of Southern Denmark where I study, which I helped build up. However, I must say that the youth here is still not very convinced, or does not want to deal that much with the international society, the United Nations, etc. This is quite sad as there are seven UN Offices in Copenhagen. UN City has just been built and there are many chances to build a nice network here, with a lot of UN support.
Comparing MUNs in the two countries, DanMUN (which is the official MUN in Copenhagen) gathers around 50-60 people on an annual basis, while ThessISMUN, by being the largest one in the Balkans, gathers around 450 participants. There are great differences in how these associations work: I am a believer that there needs to be a stable academic team that will turn an MUN to a success. This has not been the case in DanMUN so far, while in ThessISMUN there is a whole support from the city of Thessaloniki, from the academic society at the University of Macedonia and all other universities in Greece (which every year support and help the MUN), from the ThessISMUN Association and many partnerships created over time, which brought in a lot of funds and grants. The name of the conference is now recognized around a globe.
It is a shame that, while Denmark is such a progressive country in everything, the youth has not yet been that “engaged” in reaching the world of diplomacy and education, especially compared to the youth in Greece. Most of the students of international relations, political science, and law there have participated in at least one MUN in their lives. And of course, given the good economic standing of Denmark and the UN background in Copenhagen, I am guessing Denmark should be a leader in MUNs right now – but unfortunately it is not.
MUNPlanet: MUNs are social and educational thing, and every generation has its touch on the concept. How do you see the role of modern technology and social networks in MUNs and around them?
I feel that it is great that we can now use modern technology and social networks in order to: a) Keep in touch with the people we meet at MUNs; b) Discover the MUNs that are popping-up on a global level; c) Keep ourselves updated with news and photos from people we met; d) Find out scholarships that are offered by certain MUNs; e) Discussing topics of your interest with people that have the same background as we do; f) Networking, networking, networking!
As I have said above, it is really important to use social networks when it comes to MUNs. I feel that MUNPlanet is growing rapidly and going in right direction, keeping people up to date with new MUNs around the world and, at the same time, keeping MUN alumni interested by posting discussions relevant to them and topics discussing international affairs.
It is also very interesting that job postings are now on MUNPlanet, since people from “our” background can now apply for them. I see it slowly becoming a necessity to people that attend MUNs, something like Linkedin, but mostly relevant for people from the background of international politics/international affairs/ IR/ law. I am a great fan of MUNPlanet and of the way it decided to work, which is why I decided to be part of it from the very beginning!
MUNPlanet: Lamprini, where are you headed now? Our well-informed sources suggest that you want to move to Serbia in the near future?
Right now, I am a Study Start Tutor at the University of Southern Denmark and I am also a Communications employee at the same institution. I am going in Turkey on the 27th of May to attend the Global Politics Summer School 2014, in cooperation with Kadir Has University, ELIAMEP in Athens and Center for Global Politics in Berlin.
After that, I am supposed to work on my thesis and graduate in about 6-7 months. After September, there is also a chance I will go to Greece or Brussels – but I guess I will know about that soon enough and you will be the first to know!
As to Serbia, yes, it is true that I would love to move to Belgrade. Being born and raised in Greece and having seen many countries in the world, I can surely say that Belgrade is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So I guess, if I had the chance to work there, I would simply go, even if I had to move tomorrow! But that goes for Greece as well. These are the only places where I feel like I am home. But we will see. Wish me luck on that!
MUNPlanet: What would be your message to new MUNers?
I would advise the new MUNers to get as much as they can get from every MUN experience, since MUNs are a unique chance of learning things in a pleasant manner and without having to read too many books!
I would also suggest them not to be afraid to stand their ground when defending their positions which is a skill that you’ll surely get from MUNs. I will close with one sentence, which is the motto of Thessaloniki International Student Model UN and which has been inspiring me from the very beginning: BRING YOUR THESIS TO THE WORLD!